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Monday, July 30, 2012

Happy St. Ignatius Day

Tomorrow is the memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Here below is a hypothetical letter written in the name of Ignatius to anyone who might be interested in Ignatian spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises . I first read it when I was making the online Ignatian retreat in everyday life given by Creighton University, and it touched me. The letter was created by John Reilly SJ and I found it at the site of John Veltri SJ. The letter is long but it's well worth a read. The original has many hot links contained within it that give more info on various concepts mentioned, like spiritual freedom or the discernment of spirits, so please visit Fr. Veltri's page, as I didn't include the links in my post. Here it is .....


To You . . .
. . . From Ignatius

As you know, my great desire was always
to tell people about God and God's grace,
and about Jesus ... both crucified and risen,
so that my brothers and sisters
would experience
the freedom of God.

I wanted to bring the same message
as the church had always brought
... and yet,
I felt I could put this in a new way.

Why was this so?

I had a direct encounter with God,
particularly during those months at Manresa,
where, as I told you in my autobiography,
God personally taught me like a school boy.
Yes, I, Ignatius of Loyola, Inigo as they called me,
I knew God ... Father, Son and Spirit ...
nameless and unfathomable,
mysterious and yet near ...
bestowing themselves upon me in a manner
beyond all concrete imaginings.

I knew God clearly in such nearness and grace
as was impossible to confound or mistake.

God, God's very self ...
I knew God,
not simply human words describing God.

I knew the Divine Majesty.

I knew God,
as you would say in your modern world --
even if knowing God face to face, as I do now,
is again different ... and yet ...
somehow the same.

This is grace ... gift ...
I believe that God ... Father, Son and Spirit ...
desires to give this gift of God's self
to all who desire to be open to it.

This grace that I received during those days
at Manresa,
was not something that I considered
a special privilege
for myself or a chosen few.
Therefore, I set down the structure of this experience
in a little manual which I called
The Spiritual Exercises.
I gave these exercises to anyone
for whom such an offer of spiritual help
might seem profitable.
I did this as a lay person,
long before I went to school
to learn theology for ordination.

I gave these Exercises on the conviction
that God desires to communicate directly
and personally
to the generous person,
eager to discover God's will
and ready to act responsibly in the world
with deliberate choice.

Over the years, it has been observed
that, if persons are willing to dispose themselves generously
according to the directives of these Exercises,
in time ... God personally leads them.

God can and does communicate personally to human creatures
who are open-hearted.

A person knows God truly when this happens,
and that person
will experience the sovereign power
of God's freedom in one's own life.
This very simple and yet
stupendous conviction of mine
is a key to my spirituality.

Unfortunately, over the years,
people have thought of my spirituality
as being too rigidly methodical.
They did this because they separated
the exterior structure and content of the Exercises
from their interior dynamic,
sometimes misinterpreting and misunderstanding
the very simple approach
that I have always believed in,
namely ...

We do the best we can,
only by way of disposition
and by way of creating an openness.
In the meantime, we know that
only God's Spirit can give us
what we are seeking.

My spirituality would be betrayed if it were reduced to methods ...
but the Exercises contain many methods.
My spirituality would be betrayed
if persons were not led, ultimately,
to abandon all tangible assurances,
including my methods --
thus growing in confidence toward the inconceivable
where there are no longer paths or methods,
and thus entering their final, fearful,
creaturely choice
at the end of their lives.

To help others to experience God directly,
and to realize
that the incomprehensible mystery we call God,
is near ... and ...
we can talk with God --
this is the goal
of the Spiritual Exercises journey.

Do you desire that the Father, Son and Spirit,
share themselves with you?
Do you desire to base your life choices
and decisions
on this personal sharing and communication?

Then, by all means,
enter into these Spiritual Exercises.
But you will have to pay a price --
the price is your time;
the price is your patience;
the price is putting aside, for almost a year,
frenetic occupations, pressing decisions,
that will scatter your energies
and leave you so unfocused
that you will not be able to give yourself
to the daily moments of solitude
that my Spiritual Exercises presume.

The price is commitment to prayer,
each day, at a special time;
perhaps the best time.
More prayer, possibly,
and more focus in your prayer
than you have been used to.
The price is waiting for God
to influence your being
and trusting God to do so.
The price is that you will have to surrender
your own personal methods ... and wait ...
at least, for a time.
Occasionally, you will feel
that you should never have begun,
and you will experience a variety of reactions
towards which you will become more and more sensitive.
Reactions that are interior,
some of which are spiritual movements ...

... turmoil, anxieties, joy, pain, uplift,
peace, enthusiasm, comfort, happiness,
sadness, dryness, discouragement, tears,
hope, enlightenment, temptation, fear ...

In my Spiritual Exercises manual,
I describe them in Spanish as "agitaciones" --
spiritual movements caused by the good and evil spirits.
Modern psychology undoubtedly will have
a different explanation of how they arise.
I have discernment guidelines that will help
you and your prayer guide
sift through these reactions.

At the beginning of the manual which I wrote
for your prayer guide,
I included twenty-two different
introductory notes or comments
that apply to the whole of the Exercises.

In time, these comments came to be known as Annotations.
The way you are receiving
the Spiritual Exercises
is according to Annotation 19,
or as some of your contemporaries call it,
Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life.

The journey you are about to make
will take you many months,
and you will be doing the Spiritual Exercises
in the midst of your everyday life.

If you were to do this same journey
according to Annotation 20,
you would be doing so in the closed setting
of a retreat house,
away from everyday life,
from your usual activities and occupations.
You might feel that this is a better way
of making the Exercises.
I used to think that way myself,
particularly in my time.

Remember, however,
we didn't have retreat houses then,
and the person who made the Exercises,
even in a closed setting of thirty days,
had to take lodging in a boarding house,
away from home,
and had to go to church several times a day
for mass, vespers and benediction.
The directee
had to go outside for one's toiletry needs,
go to the stream to wash one's clothes,
and sometimes cook and shop for oneself.
There were many more distractions for the person
of the 20th Annotation in my time,
than for the person
of the 20th Annotation in your retreat houses today.

Another difference in my time had to do with the culture.
Society, then, was not what you refer to today as
schizoid ... separated.
There was a more unified way of looking at life.

In the past seventy years,
you seem to have discovered
what is called the unconscious, and, I believe,
you experience this phenomenon
as being separated from your conscious self.
Your life in various areas seems to be divided.
The public and private spheres of life in my time
were not experienced as
disparate, as I believe, they are for you.
Nor did we speak of secular and sacred
as if they were separate,
as you regard them now.
For persons of my time, the process of integrating
their spiritual experiences
with their secular experiences
was easier.
Therefore, when they went away for thirty days,
they would more automatically experience
a unity
between their experiences.
Not so with the people of your time.

The advantage of doing my Spiritual Exercises
according to Annotation 19
is that you will be taught to integrate
the experience of God's Spirit
with your daily life.

In the next several months,
many of your activities
of work, family and leisure,
even if you adapt them for this journey,
may appear to take you
away from God.
I assure you, however, that
if you are faithful
in your committed prayer times
and to what you will learn in the course
of the Exercises journey,
you will begin to find God in all things.

This is the goal of the Spiritual Exercises journey ...
to find God ...
to experience God ...
to return love for love ...
in the choices you make.

Your prayer guide is a companion on your journey.
She is neither your superior nor your judge.
You do not have
a subject/superior relationship,
a slave/master relationship,
nor a sacred obedience relationship with her.

She is a sister pilgrim.
She is a sinner as you are.
She is a person whom God will use,
at this point in your life,
as an instrument for your guidance.

I have given her
very special instructions on how to apply
my Spiritual Exercises
so that she will not interfere and
will allow God to communicate personally with you.

I presume, then,
that you and your guide are companions on the journey,
that each of you is coming out of good will,
that each of you is coming out of generosity.
Your relationship
will be one of friendliness and gentleness.

On your part,
you are being asked to be deeply faithful
to the exercises for each day
and faithful to the reflection
upon the experiences of these exercises.

Then, when you meet with your prayer guide,
you will share
what has been transpiring in your experiences ...

... the ups and downs ...
the insights ...
the struggles ...
the success feelings ...
the failure feelings ...

By listening to your prayer experiences,
she will be able to guide you and
help you to proceed on your journey.

Her very first task
is to help you get beyond the barriers
that prevent God from being personal with you.
This may take a long time
or it may proceed quickly;
there may be teaching, explaining, dialogue,
and possibly some experimenting.
once you have allowed God
to be personal with you,
once you are free enough to allow your mystery
to be touched by God's mystery,
then your guide moves into the second task.

Her second task is to be more passive,
sitting on the sidelines, as it were,
but attentive while God leads you.
I describe this in the 15th Annotation:

... while one is making the Exercises, it is much better that the Creator and Lord communicate directly with the directee seeking to discover God's desires, that God inflame him with God's love and praise, and dispose him to serve God better in the future. Therefore, standing in the centre like a balance, the director of the Exercises, should permit our Creator God to deal immediately with the directee, and the directee immediately with God.

There are two obvious exaggerations
which she will help you to avoid ...

The first
is that God is not able
to communicate personally with you,
and that you can never have
a close experience with God.

Against this exaggeration,
she will teach you to take seriously
what happens in your heart.

The second
is a growing exaggeration in your day ...
growing because your society, like my own,
is in transition;
you may be tempted
to look for black and white securities
that are not God.
This exaggeration
states that every good feeling you have
is a direct experience of God.

Against this exaggeration,
she will help you to become better attuned
to what is more authentic within your heart.

Often, it is with one or the other
of these two exaggerations,
that the enemy of our human nature
will attempt to obstruct
the good work that God desires to do in you,
by seductively and persistently,
attempting to trivialize your attempts
to be open to God's initiatives.

What is my hope?

My hope is that week by week,
slowly and gradually,
you will develop a greater ability,
a greater facility,
in entering the mystery of God
You can then experience God's love
the way I was able to experience God's love.

My hope is that you will grow in Spiritual Freedom
and in union and love ...
deep love with Jesus,
my risen Lord and King.

With all the communion of saints,
I am interceding on your behalf ...
that at some point in your life,
you will be affected by God's power,
that all the desires of your heart
and the actions
and decisions
that flow from these desires,
will be oriented towards God,
who is more than both Mother and Father to us
and towards God's service and praise.

We pray that you may grow
in the awareness of God's continuous
presence in your everyday experiences
and discover that presence
in both the private and public worlds
in which you live.
Then, later, living in faith
and meditating on the word of God,
you will be able to find God always
and everywhere,
seek God's will in every event,
and see Jesus, the Lord, in all people
and in all their struggles for liberation;
you will be able to make good judgements
and correct decisions in all you do
and in all you are.

I finish here
with two statements
that will be given again to you
towards the last weeks
of the Spiritual Exercises journey.

The first
is that love is manifested in deeds,
not just in words ...
God's love, poured into your heart,
will move you
towards your sisters and brothers.

The second
is that love consists in a mutual sharing
by the two parties involved ...
the lover gives to and shares
with the beloved
all that the lover has,
and the beloved acts towards the lover
in the same way.

On your Spiritual Exercises journey,
you are the beloved,
and God is your lover.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
desire to share everything that they have ...
even their intimate life ... with you.

Hopefully, through the power of Jesus' love
poured into your heart,
you will be able to share
everything that you have with them.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Assault

- Thierry, a French special-ops policeman

This week's movie was The Assault (L'Assaut), a 2012 French film. Remember the 2010 French film, Of Gods and Men? It was about ...

the monastery of Tibhirine, where nine Trappist monks lived in harmony with the largely Muslim population of Algeria, until seven of them were kidnapped and assassinated in 1996 during the Algerian Civil War.

The Assault also deals with the consequences of the Algerian Civil War. The film is about ...

the 1994 hijacking of Air France Flight 8969 by Algerian Islamic fundamentalist terrorists and the raid to free the hostages by the GIGN, the elite counter-terrorism paramilitary unit of the French National Gendarmerie. The director is Julien Leclercq, and the cast includes Vincent Elbaz, Aymen Saïdi, and Mélanie Bernier

The Assault is in black and white and the American version which I saw is dubbed - it's pretty well done and you stop noticing it after a bit. I hadn't heard anything about the film and picked it based on the trailer I saw at Apple, but I did think it was gripping and disturbing (rated R) and good. Some may see it as anti-Islamic - the reviewer of the movie at the NYT makes a remake about this - but my feeling is that it's not fictional, it's history, and if awful stuff is portrayed, that's because awful stuff actually happened.

Here's what a short review in The Guardian said of it (taut/taught? :) ...

A taught re-creation of the 1994 Air France Flight 8969 hijacking. The no-frills narrative flits around three vantage points: the lead terrorist, the government negotiator and the point man for the French elite counter-terrorism squad. Director Leclercq, who delivered promising low-budget sci-fi film Chrysalis, builds up the pressure leading to the inevitable storming, and it's hard not to get caught up. The characters are drawn with lean precision: there's no time for grandstanding speeches, and very little sentimentality. The kind of serious, adult action movie that the US and UK struggle to make.

Friday, July 27, 2012

David Cameron, Kelvin, and Larry the cat

Today I saw a post, At Number 10, at the blog of Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost of St.Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow. In the post, Kelvin tells of a party he attended at 10 Downing Street hosted by the British Prime Minster, David Cameron. What's strange about all this is that Cameron is the head of the Tory party, what would be the Republican party in the US.

Here's just a little bit from Kelvin's post (best to read the whole thing) ...

There was something a little bit surreal about the party I went to last night .... I can honestly say that I was absolutely thrilled to have been invited to the PM’s reception to celebrate the LGBT Community. It was the most beautiful hot evening and the reception was outside in the Rose Garden at the back of Number 10. That meant going up to the famous front door (which opens for you from within) and then through the house, past some nice paintings, down the famous staircase with the portraits that presumably leads up to the formal rooms and then out through the back. There was wine and posh nibbles and people milling around on the lawn .... And yes, I did get to meet the Prime Minister .... And the real social contact I was proudest of making? That would have to be the chance to make friends with Larry on the way out.

Larry is a cat, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office :) Larry was chosen from an animal shelter, the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Here's Larry with David Cameron and Barack Obama (Wikipedia) ....

You can read more about Cameron and what he said at the party at Thinking Anglicans here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Photo ...

of my never ending pile of tree rubbish ;) ....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


This week's movie rental was Unknown ...

a 2011 psychological thriller film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, and Frank Langella. The film is based on the 2003 French novel published in English as Out of My Head, by Didier Van Cauwelaert.

Roger Ebert gave the movie only two stars in his review. Here's part of it ...

[...] As the movie opens, we meet Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones), who are on a flight to a biotechnology conference in Berlin. I'm thinking all we need to know about biotechnology in a thriller is that it probably involves either genetically altered crops or dangerous plagues. Anyway, at the airport, Dr. Harris lets a guy load his luggage, and as the taxi leaves, we get a big shot of his briefcase, still on the luggage trolley.

So OK. Was this an accident? If I'm carrying a briefcase that contains a cure for world hunger or a formula of mass destruction, I'm not gonna leave it on the curb. Anyway, Dr. Harris and his wife get to the hotel, she starts to check in, he realizes his briefcase was left behind, and without telling her, he grabs another taxi to the airport. He tries to call her, but can't get a signal. Ever had that happen to you in Berlin?

A container falls off the truck in front of them, the taxi swerves and plunges through a bridge rail, Dr. Harris is knocked unconscious, but his life is saved by the quick actions of the driver, Gina (Diane Kruger). He's in a coma for four days. He pulls himself together and races to the hotel, only to find that his wife says she has never seen him before and is happily married to the "real" Dr. Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn). Now his ordeal be­gins: How can he prove his real identity and understand the conspiracy that has taken control of his life? ....

Ebert thinks there are just too many coincidences to be believed in the story and I agree ... as Agent Fox Mulder once said to Scully, "If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?" :) Having said that, though, it was interesting to see what Berlin was like (we did visit Germany on my one trip to Europe, but didn't stop in Berlin). Much of the movies takes place at the famous Hotel Adlon, the car accident takes place on the Oberbaum Bridge, a city landmark ...

... and another site shown is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Museum Island ...

It's not a great film but it's entertaining enough if you like Liam Neeson or would like to see Berlin.

Quakers and Jews

So often we only notice what the Catholics/Anglicans have to say on the subject of same-sex marriage, so I thought I'd paste here from British MP Yvette Cooper's page some opinions given by the Quakers and Liberal and Reform Judaism in the UK. Below is just a bit of what's on the MP's page, so please follow the link to read the whole thing ......


* Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain Paul Parker said:

“Quakers see God in everyone and so we would say that all committed relationships are of equal worth. The new proposals allow civil partnerships in Quaker Meeting houses, but that is not a marriage; it is a legal contract, not a spiritual one. That is why we are seeking a change in the law so that same-sex marriages can be celebrated within a couple’s worshipping community. Quakerism is a contemporary and radical faith, which is open to new light, and we strive to discern what the world needs of us. For us, this means seeking legal recognition for the practice we already recognise. We don’t seek to impose this on anyone else. For Quakers this is an issue of religious freedom.”


* Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu, representing Liberal Judaism:

The idea of opening up marriage to same sex couples evokes, for some, a great deal of anxiety. Yet these individuals and their institutions know that the way we think of marriage has changed and continues to change. A woman is no longer the possession of her husband. A couple may enter into marriage long after bringing their children into the world. Marriage is less, today, about the formal transaction of property and inheritance, and more about the voluntary commitment of those who choose each other through love.

I believe that the access to marriage for lesbians and gay men may further change the way we think.

Churches, Meeting houses, synagogues, upholding human dignity, offering integration, an entry to marriage that acknowledges the soul, that frames every marriage in the greater demand for purpose and meaning. A greater sense of relevance then, for our religious institutions.

Jewish marriage, too, continues to change. And indeed it must. We too are in a transition from marriage as acquisition. Some of our authorities claim that Jewish marriage has never changed. This is a selective reading of Jewish law and history. Religious conservatives, who deny and resist this reality, should not be allowed to determine the outcome of our national debate. Neither should they fear that they will be forced to perform a marriage that goes against their understanding of the traditions we inherit.

I do not believe, as the Church of England fears, that marriage as in institution will be forced to change. Marriage will endure. Yet the way we think of it will indeed continue to change. Less of an irrelevance? Perhaps. In making marriage open to all, we democratise this route to human dignity.


* Rabbi Roderick Young, who will attend the Roundtable on behalf of the Movement for Reform Judaism said:

“The proposal to extend civil marriage to gays and lesbians is greatly to be applauded. However it is not enough. It is a bizarre situation when lesbian and gay rabbis may perform a legal religious marriage for heterosexual couples, but are denied the right to experience that joy, for themselves, with their partners.

“No member of clergy or religious movement should be forced to conduct same sex marriages. But it should be a fundamental right that any clergy person who wishes to unite a same sex couple in a legal religious marriage should be able to do so. If civil, but not religious marriage, is granted to same sex couples then those who wish to celebrate their marriage in the heart of their faith will be forced first to undergo a civil ceremony and only later be able to experience a religious ceremony of no legal standing. A heterosexual couple will not have to undertake two ceremonies.

“We appeal for fairness and complete equality. We strongly uphold the rights of those, both straight and gay, who want purely a civil marriage ceremony but we ask that any couple, whether straight or gay, should have the right to a legally binding religious marriage.”


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Two Brave Bishops" and two brave Jesuits

"[T]heology as a social practice has an obligation to examine the community’s faith as something living, challenged by new events and circumstances, adapting to different cultures and historical periods, and appropriating the questions, research, reflection, and discernment of each new generation. Theology has the vocation of working for the church in its own continuing development. This is why the world’s bishops, gathered at the Second Vatican Council, trusted the theologians they invited as advisers and collaborated with them in such a fruitful and historic way.

The church’s understanding and teaching has developed over two millennia. On some subjects it has remained substantially the same. On others, it has changed dramatically, in ways that could not have been foreseen: on slavery, women’s inferiority, the divine right of kings, the uses of torture, the status and dignity of the Jewish people, the execution of heretics, the idea of religious liberty, the moral legitimacy of democratic governments, the indispensability of Thomism, and the structure of the universe itself. New questions arise, and new horizons open, cultures themselves are transformed, and the fund of human knowledge changes.

Through all this, we are called to remain faithful to God, confident that God understands us and will remain faithful to us in our pilgrimage through time. Sometimes we disagree about what this faithfulness requires in regard to a particular issue. I think the best we can do, in our own day, is to remain in attentive, thoughtful conversation with each other, to speak and listen with respect and candor, and always with charity. These sustained conversations, rooted in hope, patience, and reasonableness, and nourished by prayer, are entrusted to the special care of our church’s leaders, who are missioned to inspire, protect, and guide them, in the communion of love made possible by the Holy Spirit."

The above excerpt is from the end of a past article at Commonweal by Jesuit Robert Egan . The article is actually in two parts, the first part by Sara Butler, and the second part Egan answering her. It's all in reference to an article Egan had written earlier about women's ordination - Why Not? Scripture, History & Women's Ordination. I was reminded of this article by a post at America magazine's blog ... Readings: Two Brave Bishops by Raymond A. Schroth SJ.

More podcasts

Philosophy Bites has a list of its first 176 podcasts. Some that sound interesting ....

- Marilyn Mcord Adams on Evil
- Keith Ward on Idealism in Eastern and Western Philosophy
- Jeff McMahan on Vegetarianism
- Stephen Law on The Problem of Evil
- Jonathan Wolff on John Rawls
- Luc Bovens on Catholicism and HIV

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gun violence

Here's a video I saw today about the recent gun violence in Colorado ...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What's so compelling about Ignatius Loyola?

A bit of Fr. Martin's interview on Ignatian spirituality which I mentioned in my earlier post. It gives a sense of what I find so attractive ....

What's so compelling about Ignatius Loyola?

Fr. Martin:
The insight that really is the beginning of Ignatian spirituality is that God can speak to us through our inner lives .... As Ignatius says, 'the Creator can deal directly with the creature', which was very almost heretical at that time in the church because, you know, God could only, it was thought, deal with the person through the church and the sacraments. So this notion that you could experience God interiorly through your emotions, your feelings, your memories, your desires, everything really, was really radical. And I think that's the real connection for a lot of people today, and Ignatian spirituality - finding God in all things - is I think is also very capacious and people feel at home there ...

The whole discussion is worth a listen :)


Browsing the Washington National Cathedral's Sunday Forum archives. Listed a few below: follow the links for podcasts/videos of the discussions. The one by James Martin SJ is a good introduction to Ignatian spirituality, which is what I practice :) ....

* Everyday Spirituality the Jesuit Way - James Martin SJ (2011)

* Searching for Truth in Science and Theology - John Polkinghorne (2009)

* The Big Questions for Science and Religion - Keith Ward (2008)

* Faith in the White House: The Next Chapter - Randall Balmer (2008)

* Benedictinism: A Spirituality for the 21st Century - Joan Chittister (2008)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Happened at Vatican II

One book I've especially liked is What Happened at Vatican II by Jesuit John O'Malley. Today I saw this video of him speaking on the same subject. Here's how he characterizes the changes the Council wanted to make in the church ....

From commands to invitations, from monologue to dialogue, from laws to ideals, from threats to persuasion, from ruling to serving, from hostility to friendship, from rivalry to partnership, from suspicion to trust, from Withdrawl to engagement, from passive acceptance to active participation, from behavior modification to conversion of heart.

So idealistic! :)

At the end there were questions and one person asked the question I wanted answered - if he thought the present pope was trying to go back to before V2. Fr. O'Malley answered "Yes" And then he elaborated on this, saying he thinks the pope is acting from fear of challenge to his authority. I agree with him.

In the UK ...

Last month there was mention in a Pray Tell post of priests in the UK organizing ...

In England and Wales, six priests who claim the support of over 30 priests recently wrote a letter to The Tablet expressing deep concern about the direction of the church. They call for better dialogue between the hierarchy and laity, a theology of sexuality “rooted in the actual experiences of the faithful” and a discussion on ordaining married men as priests. They criticize the Roman Curia for bypassing basic teaching of the Second Vatican Council such as collegiality. “The recent imposition of the new translation of the Mass texts is an obvious example of this,” they said. They invite supportive priests to contact them.

Today I saw further mention of this group in the Independent Catholic News. ...

London: priests' group appeals for inclusive dialogue on future of Church

More than 70 Catholic priests and deacons gathered at a London church yesterday to pray, share concerns, and discuss the future of the Church. The meeting at St John's Anglican Church, Waterloo, was called following a letter in the Tablet ....

Fr Joe Ryan, north London parish priest and chair of Westminster Justice and Peace said he was glad to be part of the process of "building up the body of Christ" by attending the meeting. Fr Paul Saunders from Southwark Diocese said he saw it was "part of our stewardship" to pass on and develop the teachings of Vatican II.

Fr Patrick McLaughlin who spent years in peace and reconciliation at Corrymeela in Northern Ireland quoted Antony Di Mello who spoke of the need to "combine loyalty and obedience with creativity and confrontation" .......

In a message, Professor Tina Beattie suggested the establishment of a forum which included representatives from the bishops, priests and laypeople, 'in a spirit of respect and mutual trust' to begin an ongoing dialogue .... A future meeting will take place on 10 October, at Heythrop College.

It's inspiring that groups of priests are beginning to come together in different areas - Ireland, the US, Austria, Australia, and the UK - to call for a dialogue in the church between lay people and priests and the hierarchy, especially given the chilling effect of such priests sometimes being punished for speaking up. I hope something comes of all this!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


This week's movie was Notorious, a 1946 B&W film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. The basic plot ...

Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy is recruited by government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to infiltrate an organization of Nazis who have relocated to Brazil after World War II. While awaiting the details of her assignment in Rio de Janeiro Alicia and Devlin fall in love, though his feelings are complicated by his knowledge of her wild past. When Devlin gets instructions to persuade her to seduce Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), one of her father's friends and a leading member of the group, Devlin tries to convince his superiors that Alicia is not fit for the job, without success. He puts up a stoic front when he informs Alicia about the mission, choosing duty over love. Alicia concludes that he was merely pretending to love her as part of his job ....

I won't tell you what happens next in case you decide to see the movie, but it gets complicated, dangerous, disturbing, and involves second chances and smuggled uranium :)

Here's the start of Roger Ebert's review of the film ...

Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious" is the most elegant expression of the master's visual style, just as "Vertigo" is the fullest expression of his obsessions. It contains some of the most effective camera shots in his--or anyone's--work, and they all lead to the great final passages in which two men find out how very wrong they both were.

This is the film, with "Casablanca," that assures Ingrid Bergman's immortality. She plays a woman whose notorious reputation encourages U.S. agents to recruit her to spy on Nazis in postwar Rio. And that reputation nearly gets her killed, when the man she loves mistrusts her. His misunderstanding is at the center of a plot in which all of the pieces come together with perfect precision, so that two people walk down a staircase to their freedom, and a third person climbs steps to his doom ....

Here's a clip from the film. Devlin and Alicia have just reached Rio and have not yet learned what her assignment will be. She loves him but he's cautious because of her "checkered" past, and his relictance to trust her almost costs her life ....

I like movies of the 40's :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sunday morning at church

There's been criticism of the Episcopal Church in the news, but here's a post by the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, the newly elected president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, that speaks to this criticism very well. The whole thing is worth a read, but I especially liked this part at the end ...

Episcopal churches: Short on politics, sexuality debates and long on Jesus

It might disappoint sensationalist critics, but Sunday mornings in most Episcopal churches are short on political rhetoric and debates about sexuality and long on Jesus. Episcopalians are devoted primarily to praying together, serving people in need, and wrestling with hard questions that don’t have easy answers. We value Christian community over lockstep liberalism or any other ideological position, and even though it opens us to ridicule, we keep inviting everyone to join in.

And meanwhile, my own church is gearing up for Natural Family Planning Week, in which homilies will be given on the supposed evils of Obama's contraception mandate.

Sigh :(

There's an article at National Catholic Reporter

- Psychologist: Bishops' lashing out at sisters is a distraction - that I think makes a good point ...

[...] In the past 10 years, the church has taken steps toward responding to the tragedy of sexual abuse in the church at the individual level, including responding to allegations more quickly, involving law enforcement, and developing child protection policies. However, the church has not yet been willing or able to examine its own role as an institution in concealing and enabling decades of abuse. The bishops have not taken collective responsibility for their actions (and inactions) and for the enormous pain they have caused. As much as the abuse itself, it is this failure by the hierarchy to acknowledge and accept their responsibility that has angered and disillusioned so many current and now-former Catholics. Too much pain is still unacknowledged and unworked.

The church hierarchy seems to be stuck and they are blaming and lashing out. They have started a fight with LCWR and the women religious. In the doctrinal assessment, they have accused the women of the church of betraying the core values of the church, of causing scandal and leading the faithful astray, and of not being sufficiently trustworthy to reform themselves. They have ordered the women to be closely supervised. These accusations seem more rightly to belong to the sexual abuse scandal rather than to the actions of LCWR. It was the bishops who, by protecting sexual abusers, betrayed core values of the church and caused scandal to the faithful. It is the institutional church that appears not to be able to reform itself and to be in need of outside supervision.

This fight with LCWR is a distraction from the work the bishops still need to do in order to bring about genuine healing in the church ....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NPR interview

There's an NPR podcast interview with Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, on the problems between the US nuns and the vatican. As the NPR interviewer read the CDF's criticisms of the LCWR, I was struck by how incoherent/hysterical they were. An example ...

Radical Feminism. The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR, including theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world. Moreover, some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.

The nuns "distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church"? Really? Refresh my memory - in just which gospel did Jesus lay out a plan for the structured sacramental life in the Church?

So disturbing to see how the nuns are being treated by the vatican while at the same time the vatican passionately pursues a reconciliation with the creepy SSPX ... Bishop Fellay criticizes new CDF prefect, says SSPX united in response to Holy See

Medieval cosmology and bestiaries

I read an interesting article today on medieval bestiaries and how they reflect the cosmology of Aristotle/Aquinas ..... Christ or Aristotle: Where did this book come from?. Here's a bit from the article ....

[...] A critical examination of a bestiary, with special attention to the order of the catalogue and the kind of details that were recorded, can return a vivid image of the medieval European cosmology, shedding light on how Europeans distinguished themselves from animals, whether they believed animals were a positive or negative aspect of their world, and similar issues .....

As Joyce Salisbury states, early Christian thinkers sought to pull away from the pagan tradition of Aristotle by strictly adhering to a literal interpretation of the Bible, which explicitly stated that men and animals were completely different, the former created to rule over the latter. However, as time went on, Aristotle and the Greco-Roman naturalistic thinking began to creep back into the European cosmology, and as it did so, medieval scholars such as St. Thomas Aquinas sought to Christianize this influence in order to render it harmless and, indeed, beneficial to the Church. The bestiary is no doubt a product of this effort ....

I like the illustrations in medieval bestiaries. For those interested, there's a a bestiarie blog, and here's a video of Dr. Christopher de Hamel of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, showing a 12th cent. bestiary ...

Monday, July 16, 2012

LSE podcast

Tonight I came upon a podcast from The London School of Economics, a panel discussion about the London Family Planning Summit. I'd seen the summit in the news so decided to give the podcast a listen. It was interesting and I was struck by how the people involved seemed so passionate about working to change the world for the better and to help those less fortunate. We may all disagree about how such things are best accomplished, but still, the desire to make a real difference for good is pretty compelling. Here's the podcast ....

And here's a video on the subject too ...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"A mix of Bogart, Fernandel and a samurai"

That's how Camus described himself :) There's an interesting post at the NYT's philosophy blog by Andy Martin, a lecturer at Cambridge University. It's about Sartre and Camus and their respective trips to New York.

I liked the existentialists in college - they seemed like such surreal personages, especially Camus. I think one misconception about existentialists is that they were nihilists, that they embraced despair. Not so - they basically said one should suck it up and go on in the very teeth of apparent meaninglessness .... I admired that courage. See this on the distinction between existentialism and nihilism from Wikipedia ...

Although nihilism and existentialism are distinct philosophies, they are often confused with one another. A primary cause of confusion is that Friedrich Nietzsche is an important philosopher in both fields, but also the existentialist insistence on the absurd and the inherent meaninglessness of the world. Existentialist philosophers often stress the importance of Angst as signifying the absolute lack of any objective ground for action, a move that is often reduced to a moral or an existential nihilism. A pervasive theme in the works of existentialist philosophy, however, is to persist through encounters with the absurd, as seen in Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus ("One must imagine Sisyphus happy"), and it is only very rarely that existentialist philosophers dismiss morality or one's self-created meaning: Kierkegaard regained a sort of morality in the religious (although he wouldn't himself agree that it was ethical; the religious suspends the ethical), and Sartre's final words in Being and Nothingness are "All these questions, which refer us to a pure and not an accessory (or impure) reflection, can find their reply only on the ethical plane. We shall devote to them a future work."

But anyway, here's a bit from Martin's post ....

Sartre and Camus in New York

In December 1944, Albert Camus, then editor of Combat, the main newspaper of the French Resistance, made Jean-Paul Sartre an offer he couldn’t refuse: the job of American correspondent .... Camus — officially a cultural emissary of the French government — followed in Sartre’s footsteps in 1946 ......

He fell in love several times over, notably with Patricia Blake, a 19-year-old student and Vogue apprentice. He read her pages from “The Plague” and she, in return, noting his fascination with the American way of death, found him issues of undertakers’ trade magazines — Sunnyside, Casket,and Embalmer’s Monthly. He particularly admired a funeral parlor ad: “You die. We do the rest.”

At Vassar he gave a lecture on “The Crisis of Mankind” and was dazzled by the spectacle of “an army of long-legged young starlets, lazing on the lawn.” But he was preoccupied by what he thought of as the “American tragedy.” The tragedy of the students was that they lacked a sense of the tragic. For Sartre the tragic was the mechanization and objectification of the human. For Camus, the tragic was something more elusive: whatever it was, it was missing in America ...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Take nothing with you."

The gospel reading for tomorrow, Mk 6:7-13, has Jesus sending off the apostles with some advice. I really like the way this scene is portrayed in the movie Jesus - as he walks among the chosen, squeezing the shoulder of one, kissing another (Judas! :), and giving them the the apostle basics, he seems so encouraging, proud, and at the same time, a bit rueful. If you click on the video's status bar at 5:35 into it, you can see Jesus picking the 12 and then giving them their instructions, ending with a group hug :) ....

Can't remember the name ...

for these fuzzy one inch bells .-

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

And more on this subject ...

An article in TIME - Melinda Gates Launches Global Crusade for Contraception - about, and a TED talk by, Melinda Gates, a Catholic for contraception (gasp!) :) ....

London Family Planning Summit

Bryan Cones has a post at US Catholic - Catholic for contraceptives: Melinda Gates wants birth control for 120 million poor women. Here's the beginning of his post ...

I wonder if, in 1968 when he signed Humanae Vitae, Paul VI could have guessed the kinds of conversations we'd still be having more than 40 years later--or that Catholics would still be arguing about birth control.

I doubt Montini could have foreseen Melinda Gates--a woman with control of billions in philanthropic resources and priceless credibility in the world of aid to the world's poor--who is now devoting herself entirely to providing medical means of family planning to 120 million poor women. Did I mention she is Catholic?

Gates has been on the defensive--although you would never know it by her self-possessed and graceful demeanor--because her efforts contravene Catholic teaching on birth control. Gates acknowledges in an interview on The Colbert Report that this is so, but she also argues that, in the interest of social justice, women should be free to choose other methods to manage their fertility, an argument she also took to CNN.

Gates' argument, to my mind anyway, is a winning one ....

And here's more about the family planning summit taking place in London - Contraception pledge for 120 million of poorest women ....

The promise was made at the London Family Planning Summit, which was co-hosted by the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up by the Microsoft boss and his wife to improve global healthcare and tackle extreme poverty .....

At present 220 million women do not have access to contraception or family planning services. It is estimated that a woman dies from pregnancy-related complications every two minutes. The summit's organisers say the cumulative impact of the pledges by 2020 could be 200,000 fewer maternal deaths, 110 million fewer unintended pregnancies, 50 million fewer abortions, and nearly three million fewer babies dying in the first year of life .......

Some good further reading - A Gates Summit Aims to Fill Family Planning Gap - which mentions the disingenuous attacks on the summit by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and links to a post by Berk Ozler, a World Bank development economist - Is there an 'unmet need' for birth control - as well as this video below ...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A relic on tour

The relic, John Vianney's heart, has been on tour in the UK. One of the stops was Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, a really interesting looking church ....

But back to the relic. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of John Vianney, who was ...

a French parish priest who in the Catholic Church is venerated as a saint and as the patron saint of all priests. He is often referred to as the "Curé d'Ars". He became internationally notable for his priestly and pastoral work in his parish because of the radical spiritual transformation of the community and its surroundings. Catholics attribute this to his saintly life, mortification, his persevering ministry in the sacrament of confession, and his ardent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Philomena.

He's considered one of the "incorruptibles" - perhaps that's why his heart is up to a tour - but when I think of hm I mainly recall something he is said to have said ... “O, how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die … God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host…”

God obeys him? Holy mackerel :( There was a past discussion at Pray Tell about this quote and others having to do with our perceptions of the role of priests here.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Return to Me

- Bob (Duchovny) gives Grace (Driver) a bike

This week's movie was an old one from the library - Return to Me - a 2000 movie filmed in Chicago, directed by Bonnie Hunt and starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver. It tells the story of a man whose wife dies and has her heart donated to another woman with whom he unknowingly ends up falling in love. It sounds like a drama and there are some sad parts but it's more a comedy.

I don't watch many "romantic" movies, I guess - I'm more likely to watch science fiction or fantasy or thrillers - but there are a few that I've liked very much, like Sense and Sensibility or Rebecca. This movie isn't as good as those, but still it was charming and touching. David Duchovny was good in it (I've been a fan since The X-Files) and so was everyone else, there are animals in it too :) and even a trip to Italy at the end. There were 264 customer reviews of the film at Amazon, 185 of which gave it 5 stars, so I guess I'm not alone in having liked it.

Couldn't find a good trailer for it, but here's an ET equivalent ....


I spent most of last night trying to figure out if my computer had the DNS Changer virus or the Flashback Trojan virus ... my machine was going slow and I couldn't access some of my blog functions, plus the icon for my blog had changed from the purple square to an orange O, perhaps indicative of the Microsoft Outlook Express page that kept appearing and asking me for my password (I don't use Microsoft). Things were complicated because I have an old OS and most of the detectors were for later operating systems. Finally downloaded an old version of a virus detector which couldn't find a virus on my machine, and now things seem to have just self-healed - the purple icon is back :)

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Absent Friends

by Walter Wingate

My heart absorbs me more and more;
My world of friendship narrows in.
The new I hardly care to win;
The old are fewer than of yore.

But in the space from eve till morn,
Affection, cramped upon the nest,
In wider ranging finds a rest;
And I am not so friend-forlorn.

For never one have I forgot;
Their voices in my heart I hear;
I am myself their souvenir;
We shaped each other, thought with thought.

At times a merry meet we hold:
At times upon my mind is left
That aftermath of the bereft,
Regret for kindness overcold.

New flowers on April's breast they see,
New stars about the winter moon:
And new delights may change the tune
That keeps the old refrain for me.

If friendship there has changed its stream
To feed the homestead where they live,
If they forget, I must forgive:
Yet rather will I trust my dream;

My dream, that nightly soars above
The barriers of time and space,
To watch their gaze upon my face
Till recognition leaps to love.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Send God an email

- prayers in the Western Wall (from Wikipedia)

Dina has a post at Jerusalem Hills Daily Photo with a link to a site that allows people to send an email prayer to God - it's transcribed onto paper and placed between the stones of the Western Wall. I hope God's always paying attention to my mental memos, but still I was glad to have the opportunity to send the email and have my prayer placed in the Wall :)

New Jesus movie?

When I think of Paul Verhoeven, I think of the sci fi movies he's directed like RoboCop, Total Recall, or Starship Troopers, and I tend to forget a weird factoid about him ... he's a member of the Jesus Seminar ;)

I see in a post at the NT Blog that Verhoeven is making a movie about Jesus .... The Paul Verhoeven Jesus Film is to go ahead. Mark's post is worth a read.

Here's a short video interview with Verhoeven about a book he wrote about Jesus, a book from which the movie will probably draw ...

Thursday, July 05, 2012

On Ignatian retreats from Boston College

I often wonder what it would be like to make a real Ignatian Spiritual Exercises retreat at a retreat house. The end of my RCIA course included a stay at the monastery in Vina but terminally shy me opted out. Today I came across some videos from Boston College on what such retreats are like (you can find them all here). Here are a couple of the short video clips ....

This one one has James Carr SJ talking about finding God in nature on a retreat ...

Here's one which has Ann Fowler talking about what the daily routine of a retreat is like ....

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The 4th

Here's a clip from the movie National Treasure in which, in the presence of the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives Building, Nick Cage's character recites and explains the part of the Declaration that means the most to him. As I listened to the line* spoken, I couldn't help thinking of how it could apply to the governance of the Catholic Church ;) ....

* But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I hate fireworks

I was indifferent to them until the cats came to live with me and I saw how frightened they were of them. Now that the cats are gone, I've come to think of the blue jays as my pets and I worry about their reaction to tonight's/tomorrow's fireworks. Remember the stories in the news about the mysterious bird deaths? It's thought that loud noises/explosions were the cause. For those interested, here's something on the subject from Audubon magazine .... Do Fireworks Cause Bird Deaths? What to Do on the Fourth of July.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Midnight Riot/Rivers of London

- St Paul's Church

The book I'm now reading is Midnight Riot (Rivers of London in the UK) by Ben Aaronovitch. It's an urban fantasy novel and in some ways reminds me of The Dresden Files books. I'm just a little way into it so far, but I like it :) Here's a description of the book at Amazon ...

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

One thing I like about the book is learning about London. At the beginning of the story, St. Paul's church (not cathedral) is mentioned. Here's a little about it from Wikipedia ...

St Paul's Church, also commonly known as the Actors' Church, is a church designed by Inigo Jones as part of a commission by Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford in 1631 to create "houses and buildings fitt for the habitacons of Gentlemen and men of ability" in Covent Garden, London, England. As well as being the parish church of Covent Garden, the church gained its nickname by a long association with the theatre community ...

You can also read the mystery worshipper report on the church at The Ship of Fools :)

Sunday, July 01, 2012


It's strange having online friends because sometimes you don't know a whole lot more about them than that you like them. I have had a friend for some years, Mike Lang, who often visited my blog and commented and wrote me the occasional email. The last time I heard from Mike was in February - he kindly sent me a bunch of books for my new kindle. I wrote back but didn't hear from him. I wrote again and still no reply, but I thought he was probably just busy. Recently my sister wondered if Mike might be ill - he had some health issues - and so I wrote to him again but his email address was no longer active. That really concerned me and I began searching the web for him. Tonight I found what might be his obituary, one which says that a Michael Lang died last February. I don't know if it's him :( If anyone out there does know Mike, I'd appreciate any information.